Thursday, December 29, 2011

Warm Up with the Winter Cocktail Menu at 1886

1886 only gets better and better.  Pasadena's premiere cocktail spot has settled into a comfortable groove of innovation in its just over one year of existence.  Cocktail consultant Marcos Tello still provides guidance but now the team led by talented head barman Garrett McKechnie has been allowed to shine.  The new winter menu, which is smoke and beers themed, has cocktails created by many of the staff members.  This collective approach which highlights the deep bench, rather than focusing on a single wizard, is a telling sign of the 1886 ethos: unpretentious quality and comfortable fun.

The most dramatic cocktail on the menu is undoubtedly The Smoking Jacket, a Lacey Murillo cocktail served in a brandy snifter.  The base is Pot Still Irish Whiskey with house-made 1886 tobacco bitters, maplewood smoke and orange-vanilla ash.  As the smoke fills up and rises out of the glass, other patrons will inevitably look at your cocktail with curiousity and perhaps a twinge of jealously.  The cocktail is completed with the addition of the orange-vanilla ash, which adds a sweet and smoky element.  With such strong visual and olfactory elements there is a danger that the flavor might not live up to the other senses, melting away like the smoke into the night air.  Fortunately the taste delivers, enabling this take on an Old Fashioned to be a feast for all of your senses.

Marcos Tello descrived Brady Weise's Coffee and Cigarettes as "a chocolate version of a White Russian, but it's lengthened with stout, so it has this heavy chocolate coffee note and looks like coffee.  So when you drink this cocktail, you get the chocolate and coffee notes, and then you eat the cigarette and the vanilla flavor comes in. From afar, it actually looks like someone drinking their coffee and eating their cigarette."
The cocktail is made with Vodka, Dark Crème de Cacao, Yeti Stout, Hand Whipped Cream, & Vanilla Paper Rolled Cigarette.  The coffee notes from the Stout Beer come through loud and clear as this cocktail embodies both themes of smoke and beer.

On a cold night the warming effect of a Grog Logged, a creation of Greg Gertmenian, is just what the doctor ordered.  The cocktail is made with Black Rum and 1886's own proprietary grog recipe which includes ale, sugar and lime.  The drink name is a tribute to Jeff "Beachbum" Berry.  The cocktail is served in a jar wrapped in a koozie made out of rope.  This beverage is as potent as it is warm.

Another noteworthy addition to the 1886 repertoire is Danny Cymbal's Oak Knoll Manhattan, which is a twist on the classic incorporating housemade mulled wine vermouth.  It incorporates Bonded Bourbon with dry vermouth, mulled vermouth and garnished with dried sugar (the snowflake in the cocktail above).   The vermouth is housemade mulled wine vermouth utilizing several locally grown spices and botanicals.  Now Pasadena has its own Manhattan variation.  Who knows, perhaps soon bartenders will name their versions after neighborhoods in the area instead of those in Brooklyn.

Whether it is house-mulled vermouth, house-made bitters or creating their own grog, 1886 is focusing on putting their own touches on their cocktails by making their own ingredients.  The other new additions to the Winter Menu are:

Con Abuelita: Ancho-Chile infused Reposado Tequila, 1886 Hot Chocolate Mix, & Ancho-Chile Marshmallow
Chic(ory) Flip: Chicory-Coffee infused Rye Whiskey, Yeti Stout, One Whole Egg, & Carmelized Chicory-Coffee Sugar
Pimm’s Cup No. 2: Scotch based Pimm’s No. 2, citrus juices, ginger, mint, cucumber, & soda water Holland Daze: Bols Genever, Housemade Pistachio Orgeat, Maraschino Liqueur, Lemon & Housmade Sambuca Bitters
Per-Sin-Amen: Mescal, Fresh Persimmons, Housemade Cinnamon Bark Syrup, Lime, & Chocolate-Creole Bitters

1886 at the Raymond: 1250 South Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena.  Phone: 626.441.3136 |

Mezze's New Bar Menu

Chef Micah Wexler's Meditteranean restaurant Mezze opened to strong reviews this March in the former Sona location on La Cienega.  Mezze has a striking interior and opened up the space with a large open kitchen.  The glass provides an expensive view into the gleaming white kitchen where Wexler and his team prepare the small plates the restaurant is known for.

Earlier this month Mezze launched a new Bar Menu, providing the opportunity to try Wexler's cuisine in sharable small portions, suitiable for munching along with one of the signature cocktails.

A highlight of the cocktail list is the Baharat Milk ($10), below, is made with Barbancourt 8 Year, Remy VS, Baharat Milk and grated pistachios.  The frothy milk blends well with the rich Haitian rum and the Cognac and the grated pistachios add both an attractive dash of color as well as a sweet nutty finish.

The cocktail list, along with the beers and wines are half price during the twice nightly "happy hour" at the bar from 6 - 7:30 pm and again from 11 pm - 1 am.  The new bar menu is available all night, although not at half price.

The rest of the cocktails on the list are:

Grapefruit Sergio: St. Germain, Vodka, lemon juice, grapefruit juice ($10)
Sumac 75: Sparkling Wine, Cocchi Americano, Sumac Syrup ($11)
Angeleno: Gin, Aperol, orange juice, lemon juice, bitter lemon soda ($12)
George Dickel Pickle: Whiskey, mustard seed, lemon, celery, serrano pepper ($11)
Mongo: Don Julio Anejo Tequila, Peychaud and Angostura Bitters, Lemon Juice ($16)

The new bar menu includes:

Zatar Bread and Olive Oil ($4)
Warm Pita with Honey and Butter ($4)
Grandma’s Chopped Chicken Livers with Grape Mostarda and Mini-Challah ($10)
Eggplant Hushpuppies with Onion Fondue ($6)
Potato Knish with House Mustard ($7)
Merguez Sausage Flatbread with Tomato Jam and Aleppo Pepper ($14)
Egyptian Rebel Fries with Heirloom Beans, Brisket, and Syrian Cheese ($10)
Braised Moroccan Chicken Wings with Picholine Olives and Golden Raisins ($9)
Brisket Shawarma or Falafel Sandwich with Amba and House Pickles ($8)
The Kleinfeld Sandwich: Chicken Shawarma with Amba and House Pickles on a Sesame Baguette ($10)
 Brussels Sprouts with Soft Boiled Egg and Soujouk ($8)

Mezze: 401 N. La Cienega Blvd, Mid City.  Phone: 310.657.4103 | Website:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Good Things Come in [Freddy] Smalls Packages

Freddy Smalls opened up last week on Pico Blvd in West LA, just down the block from Mori Sushi.  In a small lowprofile space that formerly housed El Serape, some big players have come together to create something special.  The chef is Charlie Parker, who previously was the chef at the Cellar Door at Bonny Doon winery in Santa Cruz; consulting is Jeremy Fox, the former executive chef at Ubuntu.  Also in the mix is Mario Orellana, formerly of Chimu, who has been consulting and cooking as well.  Fox and Parker worked together at Manresa in Los Gatos, for their mentor Chef David Kinch.

I had the pleasure to eat at the Cellar Door several times when Parker was the chef and it was delicious and casual but perfectly executed.  The atmosphere at Freddy Smalls is also low key and the menu is attractively priced, but most importantly the food is flavorful and not shy.  With Fox associated with the restaurant some might assume that it is vegetarian.  It is most certainly not; meat has a pride of place on the menu and some of the best dishes are nothing short of decadent.

Another key player in Freddy Smalls is manager David Fleisher, who previously played that role at Seven Grand.  As such, it is no surprise that the cocktail list includes touches such as house-made tonic and grenadine.  The cocktail list includes about a dozen choices, priced at $10 - $12, and among the highlights is the Mayberry Smash, made with Death’s Door Gin, fresh berries, sage honey, lemon juice and mint leaf garnish.

The Chicken Liver Mousse ($8) is served with crispy bread, red wine and shallot marmalade (center) and violet mustard (right).  The mousse itself was rich and creamy and spread luxuriously over the warm toast.  The marmalade was an unusual touch and and the mustard brought a sharper element to the dish.  They brought more bread without us having to ask for it, when our waiter saw that we still had mousse left after finishing the toast.

Deviled Eggs have been having a very long moment in foodie circles, and the epicenter of their rennaisance has been at gastropubs.  Here, they are Buffalo Deviled Eggs ($6), with crisp chicken skin, Point Reyes blue cheese and CP's Hot Sauce all incorporated to liven up the dish.  The chicken skin was the hook and it got us to order the dish.  The chicken skin was great, but overall the eggs were fine, not of note.

The pièce de résistance of the menu and our recent meal was the Reuben's Gluttony ($19).  A board arrived at the table groaning with gluttonous delights including corned beef (more brisket style in my opinion), bone marrow, yorky pudding, kohlrabi kraut and a selection of mustards.  The corned beef brisket was rather tasty and the yorky pudding when topped with bone marrow was outstanding.  Overall only a shmear of mustard was left on the board when my hungry posse was done with it.  A must order.

The Flash-Grilled Steak Tartare ($12) is topped by a smoked egg yolk, and is accompanied by Worcestershire fingerling potato chips.  Incorporating Worcestershire sauce into the potato chips used to eat the tartare, rather than into the tartare itself, was an inspired idea.  The smoky yolk mixed in nicely and enriched the dish.  Another must order.

It wouldn't be a Jeremy Fox menu without some vegetable dishes.  The Beets & Avocado ($9) was served on a bed of red quinoa, fuyu persimmon and pistachio nuts.  A pleasing assortment of flavors and textures that also looked too good to eat.

The Mushroom and Farro Porridge ($16) is another vegetarian dish sure to please.  The base is caramelized onion consomme, with winter vegetables, miner's lettuce and a slow cooked egg.  A runny egg makes everything better and this dish tasted very meaty for a vegetarian option.  Note that the egg is $3 additional (to the $13 base), but I consider it an essential ingredient.

The dessert menu is short and sweet with only three options.  One stands out and practically demands to be ordered: Belgian Waffle ($8) served with grilled lady apple, bacon butter and bourbon-maple syrup.  The bacon butter was served on the side for us and the waffle, grilled apple and bourbon maple syrup was a heady combination.  It left us happy as we headed out into the winter's night.

Freddy Smalls is indeed small and is likely to be extremely popular once word gets out.  So go now and beat the rush while you can.  Good things do come in Smalls packages.

Freddy Smalls: 11520 W. Pico Blvd, West LA.  Phone: 310.479.3000 | Website:

Roll The Dice: Three Threes Is A Winner at the Tripel

The Tripel is on the main drag in Playa del Rey, which means that it is still relatively quiet, although parking on Culver can be difficult.  The neighborhood, just North of LAX, is cut off from the rest of the city by the Ballona Creek and wetlands to the North, the airport to the South and Lincoln Blvd and LMU to the East.  Hemmed in right off of the Pacific, Playa del Rey is not on the way to anywhere else and feels like a hidden secret.

Last spring, Chef Brook Williamson opened The Tripel with her husband and fellow chef Nick Roberts as a follow-up to the Hudson House in Redondo Beach.  Williamson is the primary chef at the Tripel and she has developed a tasty menu of small plates and sandwiches.  I was recently invited to see how the menu has evolved. 

I began tasting my way through the menu with the Fried Gigante Beans, which appeared more like fried seafood than beans, but were crunchy and delicious.  These beans were indeed gigantic and the batter was thin and they had none of the greasiness often associated with fried food.

A must order is the signature Poppy-Parmesan Biscuits.  They were served with orange blossom honey and clotted cream (in the bowl).  Williamson always has biscuits on the menu but varies them with the season.  They taste as good as they look; nice and light and moist.  Nothing is worse than an overly dry biscuit but fortunately that is a hazard you will not need to fear encountering at the Tripel.

The sandwiches are the most popular menu items.  Having tried the lamb burger (just ok) on a prior visit, I made straight for the Turkey Pastrami Melt: turkey pastrami with cambozola blue brie melted on sourdough bread.  With the accompanying stout mustard and pickles this was a solid dish.  Another favorite was the Chicken Waterzooi (unpictured) which included carrots, leeks, kale, fenugreek, gremolata, chicken and a potato pancake in a stew.  This was hearty and exceeded expectations.  Who knew you could get a great Belgian waterzooi in a beach bar in Playa del Rey?  The dish is a nod towards the Belgian beer theme of the gastropub.

The Tripel lacks a hard liquor license but serves beer cocktails including the seasonal special of Holiday Spice Cake with sparkling wine, Scaldis Noel (a Belgian Strong Ale), ginger beer and bitters.  This beer cocktail evokes winter, even by the beach in Los Angeles.

Another enjoyable beer cocktail was the Shandy with amber ale, ginger beer and a twist of orange peel.  This was light and refreshing and perfect for a warm afternoon.

The Tripel is small with the only seating at two communal tables and at the bar.  They have a strong Belgian and craft beer list on draft and it is a comfortable ambiance.  I recommend making a detour over to Playa del Rey to try some of their new dishes, sip on a few brews and perhaps try a beer cocktail, especially if you have never had one before.  They open at noon on Friday - Sunday and later afternoon may be the perfect time at this spot as it is still light out and warm and the evening crowds have yet to wander in.

The Tripel: 333 Culver Blvd, Playa del Rey.  Phone: 310.821.0333  Website:

Amuse Your Tastebuds at Papilles

Papilles, a new French bistro opens tonight in Hollywood.  The restaurant is the newest project from Santos Uy, who owns Mignon in Downtown Los Angeles.  Papilles, the French word for tastebuds, is also the name of a bistro gastronomique in Paris that inspired Uy on an April trip in Paris.  On his trip he visited many of the modern bistros that focus on quality ingredients, well cooked food and a greater emphasis on what is on the plate than on the traditional trappings of fine French food.  Rather than bring back a souvenir, he brought back a restaurant.  Try fitting that into your carry-on luggage.

The concept is a prix fixe menu with two choices of appetizers, two entree options and cheese or dessert all for only $28 ($35 if cheese is added in addition to dessert).

Expect to find dishes such as Tahitian Squash Veloute, tahitian squash foam and pomegranate (above) and Braised Beef Cheeks, jus, creamy polenta, roasted carrots and glazed turnips (below).  The soup was one of the appetizers when I sampled the food at a preview dinner.  The warm soup had the essence of squash, with concentrated flavor to go with the intense orange color.  The chef mentioned that he enjoys using the same ingredient multiple ways in the same dish, hence both the squash veloute and squash foam.

The beef was fork tender and just the thing for a cold winter's evening in Los Angeles.  The polenta was creamy as advertised and the carrots provided a pleasing color contrast to the plate.  The jus from the beef flavored everything and was rich and comforting.

Another dish from the small menu was the Trout with red quinoa and beets.  The green sauce on the plate provided another dose of color, which livened up the dish.  The trout was light and mild.

The cuisine is cooked by Executive Chef Tim Carey, who worked in the kitchen at Patina, Joachim Splichal's flagship restaurant in Walt Disney Concert Hall, before joining Uy to open up Papilles.

To finish the meal, diners can choose between desserts such as poached pear or a plate of cheese, like the Spanish Mahon below, served with sliced pear.  The salty cheese and the sweet fruit were a nice way to end the meal and prepare to step outside into the Los Angeles night.

Note that the bread is served in colanders, a whimsical touch.  The wine program is in development and will focus on French natural and biodynamic wines.

Papilles is located in a strip mall in East Hollywood, on Franklin just East of the 101 freeway in the former Raffalo's Pizza.  It is ambitious and is prix fixe only meaning you can't just pop in for an entree or appetizer.  Fortunately the price point is wallet-friendly and the menu is expected to change weekly.

Papilles: 6221 Franklin Avenue, Hollywood.  Phone: 323.871.2086 | Website:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Recharge After Christmas at the Boxing Day Social

Christmas is such a tiring day of the year.  So much preparation. So many dishes to cook, presents to wrap and stockings to stuff.  The day after you need to recharge after one last helping of Cousin Florence's fruitcake.  What better way than at the Boxing Day Social at the Spare Room at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel?

A $10 minimum suggested donation gains you entry to the "Social" event of the year on Monday the 26th.  The event is a fundraiser for the Hospitality Kitchen, which feeds and cares for the homeless.  Live music will be provided by Hobo Jazz, who contrary to expectations are not homeless clients of the Hospitality Kitchen.  In addition to the live music, your donation gets you a bottomless glass of punch (which puts any bottomless cup of coffee to shame), bar bites and entry to the legendary Jenga Tournament.  If you strapped for cash after being guilt tripped into buying too many presents for friends and relatives, blankets, sleeping bags or warm clothes will also be accepted as entry donations in lieu of cash.

In addition to all proceeds from entry benefiting the Hospitality Kitchen, there will be the First Annual Bartenders with Bar Tabs Auction.  You can bid on drinks with one of the top bartenders in LA at one of the best bars in the city.  Each bartender is generously donating their time and a bar tab at their establishment; the tabs will be mixed and matched and you can bid on an evening with folks such as Kate Grutman, Aidan Demarest, Marcos Tello, Dave Kupchinsky, Lacey Murillo, Lauren Osbourne and more.

This Social will be hosted by Naomi Schimek, so you know it will be legit.

Monday December 26th, 7 - 11 pm @ the Spare Room at the Roosevelt.
7000 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood.  Phone: 323.769.7296 | Website:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mixology on Main Street: Areal Opens in Santa Monica

If you've stopped by Harvard & Stone and Black Market and wondered where Rich Andreoli and Mia Sarazen are, the answer is Santa Monica.  Andreoli created the cocktail program at the new Areal and brought in Sarazen as his partner behind the bar.  Areal is located in the longtime home of World Cafe, so don't be surprised if you see several confused patrons enter the bar wondering what happened or where they are.  If they try one of Andreoli or Sarazen's cocktails, they will know that intentionally or not, they have come to the right place.

Fans of mezcal will enjoy the Single Village Fix pictured above which contains mezcal, fresh lime juice and pineapple gomme (syrup).  I couldn't resist talking a (rather large) sip before snapping the photo.  The smokiness of the Del Maguey Vida mezcal and the citrus of the lime and pineapple make a robust balanced but refreshing cocktail.

The White Wedding, pictured below, may appear like a tall glass of sweet but looks can be deceiving as the base of the drink is white whiskey, the term for unaged whiskey.  Fresh lime juice, maraschino, Chartreuse, tonic and creole bitters round out the ingredients.  I am not a fan of quinine, but the tonic did not predominate.  Another balanced cocktail; the Chartreuse binds all the flavors together.

Cocktail Menu

The Lily: Reposado tequila, fresh lemon and lime juices, agave, grapefruit soda.

Moskow Mule: Vodka, ginger, fresh lime juice, soda water, bitters.

East Side Fizz: Gin, fresh lime juice, mint, cucumber, soda water.

Cameron's Kick: Scotch, Irish Whiskey, fresh lemon juice, orgeat.

Anejo Old Fashioned: Anejo tequila, agave, bitters, grapefruit essence.

Secretariat: Bourbon, pistachio honey, walnut liqueur, sweet vermouth, lavender bitters.

Negroni: Gin, Carpano Antica, Gran Classico.

Corpse Reviver: Gin, Lillet, Cointreau, lemon juice, absinthe rise.

Original Sazerac: Cognac, bitters, sugar, absinthe rinse.

Infante: Bianco tequila, fresh lime juice, orgeat, rose water, nutmeg.

Single Village Fix: Mezcal, fresh lime juice, pineapple gomme.

White Wedding: White whiskey, fresh lime juice, Maraschino, Chartreuse, tonic water, creole bitters.

Areal: 2820 Main Street, Santa Monica.  Phone: 310.392.1661 | Website:

Neat Times Two: The Irish Are Coming

If you are in the mood for a wee nip of Irish Whiskey, and frankly who isn't?  Get to Neat tonight and tomorrow night for a winter celebration of Irish Whiskey.  Neat is latest watering hole from Aidan Demarest, known for Seven Grand, The Edison, 1886 and The Spare Room, to name but a few of the establishments he has managed or launched.  The Glendale bar specializes in liquor served neat, and for two nights the focus will be on the Emerald Isle.

Tonight there will be free bands, bites and whiskey samples as special guest Todd Richman (formerly of Chartruese) conducts a seminar on the history of Irish whiskey.  I sincerely hope that there will be a homework assignment for extra credit.  Plan on trying Michael Collins Irish Whiskey and listening to the high spirited music of fiddlers.

Tomorrow, Richman will be serving a special menu of four cocktails served deconstructed.  That gives you the opportunity to mix the ingredients together to make something delicious, dangerous, or both.

Neat: 1114 Pacific Avenue, Glendale.  Phone: 818.241.4542 |  Website:

The Holidays Have Arrived at the Cantina @ Border Grill

It is the time of the year when visions of dusting of nutmeg dance in the heads of mixologists all over town.  The Cantina at the Border Grill downtown brings some South of the Border flair to their new holiday cocktail list.

Bar manager Mary King and head bartender Alexander Fazio collaborated on six new festive cocktails:

The Sloe Sugarplum Fizz is made with Slow Gin, holiday plum, lemon juice and soda.  A twist on the classic Sloe Gin Fizz, this version substitutes the holiday plum for the standard sugar, to provide the sweet element.  Slow gin already contains sloe berries, which are related to plums, so this is a double down on the plum.  The drink is tart and gin forward, but still light.  Not too sweet.

A take on the classic Manhattan, the Cranhattan is made with Herradura anejo tequila, fresh cranberry puree, cranberry syrup and garnished with brandied cranberries that have been soaked in simple syrup and brandy for three luxurious days.  This cocktail is boozy and has strong cranberry flavor.

The pumpkin is known as the King of Squash, so this cocktail pays tribute to the squash-in-chief by combining Herradura anejo tequila, mezcal rinse or mist, pumpkin syrup and garnished with rosemary and candied ginger.  The pumpkin syrup includes cloves, cinnamon, brown sugar in addition to the pumpkin.  The King is on the sweet side, despite the hint of mezcal.

Taking the locavore movement close to heart, the Kumquat Caipirinha used kumquats from a staff member's yard to make kumquat puree, which is combined with cachaca, agave and thyme.  This drink is very sour as it includes both muddled and pureed kumquats.

When its time for dessert but you want to stick with liquid refreshment, the Marco Pisco may be calling your name.  The cocktail is made with pisco, green apple puree, coconut milk, cinnamon and chocolate bitters.  The cocktail uses coconut milk and apple foam in place of the froth usually generated by egg whites.  It is very rich and the chocolate bitters are quite strong.

One more time you say to the bartender as you order another Otra Vez, made with tequila, yerba mate tea, mint, agave and lemon juice.  Forget gin and juice, tequila and tea may be the next combination that breaks across the airwaves.

For those of you who have tried it all, one selection remains: Cantinero's Creation.  The bartender can create a surprise cocktail for you based on what they have in that day, your mood and how the holiday spirit moves them.  Put yourself in the hands of the trusty bartender and soon you will be shouting Ole!

Cantina at Border Grill: 445 S. Figueroa St, DTLA.  Phone: 213.486.5171 | Website:

Try This: Lamb Meatballs at The Eveleigh

Chef Jordan Toft at the Eveleigh introduced a new winter menu this week and one of the winning dishes is the Sonoma Lamb Meatballs.  These meatballs are served with a crunchy breadcrumb salsa and "lamb chopper" cheese.  The meatballs are served pink in the middle, which I had never seen before.  They are juicy and have a  distinct lamb flavor to them.  The thin shredded lamb chopper cheese added a salty element to the dish.  The meatballs are served three to an order and are relatively large.  They are priced at $16.

If you haven't tried the Eveleigh yet, this is a great excuse to get there and try Toft's food and Dave Kupchinsky and Kiowa Bryan's cocktails.

The Eveleigh: 8752 West Sunset Blvd, the Sunset Strip.  Phone: 424.239.1630  | Website:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Object of Desire: Salmon Skin Amuse at Providence

This week I tasted an amazing bite that I just can't stop thinking about: a Salmon amuse at Providence.  The base is a salmon skin that has the texture of a chicharron.  On top is diced salmon sashimi and ikura (salmon eggs) that had been soaked in mirin.  The crunch of the salmon skin, the pop of the roe and the soft sashimi all provided a wonderful textural interplay.  The "chicharron" stole the show even though I am a salmon roe fiend.  This is one of the best bites I have had in a while.  Luxurious and homey at the same time, salmon three ways in one bite is going to stay in my taste memory for a long time.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Milo and Olive: Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan's Pizzeria Opens in Santa Monica

Santa Monica based restaurateurs Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan of Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry and Sweet Rose Creamery have opened their latest outpost in their burgeoning Santa Monica constellation, Milo & Olive.  The restaurant, named for their one year old son, first opened two weeks ago serving breakfast and pastries and began serving pizza this past Thursday.  The close proximity of the restaurants is reminiscent of Danny Meyer's collection of restaurants from Union Square to Madison Square Park in Manhattan.  The chef is Evan Funke, who still helms Rustic Canyon, but is at Milo & Olive full time as it gets off the ground.

In addition to pizza, the menu contains sections for "veggies and grains", fish, meat and salads.  The restaurant only has two eight seat communal tables and an eight seat bar that faces the kitchen, so be prepared to sit with others.  On Sunday evening there was already a wait for a table and takeout, so this is not a hidden find.

Free Range Chicken Meatballs from the meat section of the menu are served in a roasted tomato sauce with arugula on top.  The chicken meatballs are moist and flavorful but the secret weapon in this dish is the tomato sauce.  It is spicy in the best way, with a pleasing ting to it but not a blow your tastebuds effect.  I sopped up the remaining sauce with some of the pizza crust.  If Milo & Olive bottled this sauce, I would buy it.

Chef Funke recently came back from a three week trip to Italy where he tried thirty pizzas as well as dozens of other dishes.  One thing he learned was that in pastas that do not use cheese, bread crumbs are often used to the same effect.  Funke applied this technique to his Fusilli with eggplant, black olives, sweet peppers and toasted bread crumbs.  The bread crumbs act almost as an aged parmesan, providing  a textural contrast to the pasta.  The fusilli noodles themselves were the longest I have ever eaten.  The pasta, a long curlicue, is like a rotini on steroids in that the length can be a foot long, and the curls trap the sauce within them, ensuring every bite has depth of flavor.

The reason for coming to Milo & Olive for dinner is the pizzas.  Funke said that not only each region, but often each town would have its own style of pizza making, and as such he has not sought to emulate any particular style but rather make his own sui generis type.  His pizzas cook for approximately eight minutes in the oven; these are not the 90 second quick cooking with intense heat pies.  Arugula, farm egg and anchovies can be added to any pizza for a small surcharge.  When presented with the option of a farm egg, it behooves a diner to take advantage.

The Margherita pizza ($14) (above) was made with fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil, olive oil, sea salt and the aforementioned egg.  The egg was runny, which made for good spreading across the pie.  The crust held up with no limp center to the slices.  The sauce was less spicy than the marinara used on the chicken meatballs and the cheese was lightly sprinkled on top.  This is a pizza pie I can recommend and is my new favorite west of the 405.  As a bonus, the restaurant is open until 11 pm seven nights a week, which is a boon to the neighborhood.

Note that there is no signage, so look for the line of hungry people and a blue oven you can see through the plate glass windows.

Milo & Olive: 2723 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica. Phone: 310.453.6776.  Website:

In Pursuit of Excellence: Josiah Citrin's New Cookbook

Josiah Citrin, the Executive Chef at Melisse, wrote and published his first cookbook, In Pursuit of Excellence.  The book is over 200 pages of photos and recipes from Citrin's kitchen.  Melisse has long been considered one of the top restaurants in Southern California and the Santa Monica restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars in their most recent Los Angeles guide.  Melisse opened over twelve years ago in 2009, and the chef, a Santa Monica native, is there daily supervising and creating dishes.

The phrase "In Pursuit of Excellence" started out as a sign in the Melisse kitchen "to remind me, to remind my staff, to remind everybody here what we are trying to achieve: excellence," Citrin explained.  He continued that whether people cook recipes directly out of the book or whether they are inspired to try a new technique by one of his recipes, any idea that he can share to help readers make a better meal is a success.

In Pursuit of Excellence is out of stock at but is available for purchase at Melisse for $45.

Melisse: 1104 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica.  Website:

Friday, December 2, 2011

ColLAboration Winter Fest Postponed

The latest ColLAboration LA event, the Winter Fest scheduled for tomorrow Saturday December 3rd, has been cancelled due to the intense wind damage at the Golden Road Brewery.  The event will be rescheduled for January, when the damage has been repaired and the power is up and running.

Golden Road CEO Tony Yanow said, “We are extremely upset that we have to postpone our Winter Fest, but the comfort and safety of our customers is of the utmost priority to us. We have yet to get our electricity back due to this week’s fierce Santa Ana winds and we simply cannot take the chance that we will not have electricity tomorrow during our event. We look forward to re-scheduling ColLAb in early 2012 and hope to see everyone then. In the meantime, all advance payment through PayPal will be automatically reimbursed within seven days to all of our guests. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

For those who already purchased a Winterfest glass, the specialty steins will be good for admission to the next ColLAboration event, which will be scheduled for January 2012. Winterfest glasses can also be taken back to their point of purchase for a full refund. To help ease the pain, the following bars will be offering $4 beer specials tomorrow:

  • Mohawk Bend: ALL beers $4 from 12-5pm 
  •  Tony’s Darts Away: ALL beers $4 from 12-5pm
  • 38 Degrees Ale House & Grill: select beers $4 from 12-5pm 
  • Verdugo: select beers $4 from 3-5pm

Chapter & Verse: Office, Test Kitchen, Playground

Dave Kaplan and Alex Day of Proprietors LLC are best known in Los Angeles for creating Bar | Kitchen at the O Hotel, a cocktail forward bar and restaurant that serves quality drinks and food in an unpretentious atmosphere in the lobby of a downtown hotel.  The duo began working together when Day became a bartender at Death & Company, the legendary Manhattan cocktail bar that Kaplan created and owns.  They quickly realized that they share the same perspective on hospitality and a healthy obsession with details and began collaborating on other projects.

As Proprietors LLC, they consulted on every aspect of the Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company, a pre-Prohibition drinking establishment in Philadelphia, including the logo, layout, design, cocktail list and bartender training.  Since moving to LA in 2010, they have created the cocktail program at all Rosa Mexicana restaurants across the country and designed a cocktail list and trained the bartending staff at Santa Monica pizzeria Stella Rossa in addition to Bar | Kitchen.  They are currently working on Demi Monde, a coffee shop, restaurant and bar in lower Manhattan, as well as on a project in Mumbai, India and another in Kaplan's hometown of Jackson, Wyoming.  Additionally they are in the planning process for their own establishment in downtown Los Angeles.

Alex Day cracks ice in preparation for making a cocktail
With so many projects going on, Day & Kaplan had outgrown their small office in the building that houses Bar | Kitchen.  They have also grown their organization, adding several part-time members including Varnish bartender Devon Tarby who helps create cocktail lists and train staff, Alexander Kwong, the noted designer,  and Mijin Son, their finance and office manager.  In looking for a space that fit their needs and sensibilities, they realized that not only did they need a larger office space, but they needed a physical space to experiment with drink ideas and it wasn't convenient to be running up and down stairs from their office to the bar space at Bar | Kitchen.

Hence, Chapter & Verse, the office, test kitchen and playground for Proprietors LLC.  Who else would give their office a name?  The Proprietors team share the space with Handsome Roasters, the coffee start-up founded by Chris Owens, Michael Phillips and Tyler Wells.  Kaplan and Day are coffee lovers and knew Owens from the Varnish, where he bartends.  The two firms realized that they were simpatico in their outlook and that Chapter & Verse could also fulfill a need for Handsome Roasters, by providing them a space to do training, R&D and work quietly away from the hubbub of the roasting facility.  The Handsome team shares the same detail orientation and quality obsession as do the Proprietors, so it has been a natural fit according to Phillips (pictured below).

World Champion Barista Michael Phillips
Chapter & Verse is more than just a place for Kaplan & Day to experiment on drinks and do paperwork. As with their bars, it is a physical calling card and representation of their brand.  As much as I wish it were a bar open to the public, I am glad to see that Proprietors has established a fountainhead from which their creativity can spring forth.  Day said that he hopes the space can become more than just an office but a place to share ideas and as such they have housed a library of cocktail books, representing both of their collections, so other bartenders in the cocktail community can learn more, be inspired and have fun together.  Even though you may not get to try a drink here, having Chapter & Verse opens means that more quality drinks will be coming both to Los Angeles and to cities around the globe.  Cheers to that!

Designer Alexander Kwong 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Short Order Now Open at the Farmers Market

Short Order, the burger restaurant at the Original Farmer's Market at 3rd & Fairfax recently opened after being in the planning stages for several years.  The concept is a partnership between restaurateur Bill Chait, burger maven Amy Pressman and chef Nancy Silverton.  Pressman was the driving force behind Short Order; she succumbed to cancer shortly before the restaurant opened.  Silverton and Chait moved forward with the restaurant as a tribute to Pressman.  Now the executive chef is Christian Page, formerly of Daily Dose in Downtown Los Angeles.

The heart and soul of the menu at Short Order are the burgers.  Options on offer include the eponymous Short Order Burger, which features a patty of grass-fed beef, morbier cheese, griddled mushrooms, bibb lettuce and mustardy mayo ($12), Nancy's Backyard Burger made with Nancy Silverton's beef blend, artisan bacon, comte cheese, avocado, tomato, onion, iceberg lettuce and spicy mayo ($13), and Ida's Old School Burger made with grass-fed beef, pickles, tomato, griddled onion, iceberg lettuce and secret sauce ($11).  There is a veritable Noah's ark of burger possibilities with lamb, turkey, tuna and pork available in addition to the standard beef.  The burgers are served a la carte, with sides available for an additional price.

The Ida's Burger (pictured above) was tasty when I sampled it the first week Short Order was open.  It was a little rarer than I would have preferred but as the kitchen was still getting up to speed, we didn't expect perfection.  The bun is also of high quality, which is pretty much a given, considering Silverton's involvement.  Silverton was a pastry chef at Spago and founded the La Brea Bakery, before co-founding Osteria and Pizzeria Mozza.  To say she knows bread is an understatement.

In addition to Old School Fries ($3), Short Order Spuds ($4) are also available.  These delicious little fries (above) are a cross between potato skins and tater tots.  Addictive, hot and ready to be dipped into the accompanying sauces.  The Spuds are a must order.

I sampled the Chocolate Malt Shake ($6) which was rich and chocolatey.  I split it with a friend (half portion pictured below) and it was worth every penny and calorie.  Shakes aren't the only beverages on offer.  Up a flight of stairs is a bar where Julian Cox of Rivera, Playa, Sotto and Picca created a cocktail program to complement the food.  Quality cocktails in the farmer's market?  That's all I need to know to know I will be back.

Short Order: 6333 W. 3rd Street, the Farmer's Market (adjacent to Du Par's), Mid City.  Phone: (323) 761-7970.  Website: